UCT proposes free education for poorest students

Cape universities have indicated blanket free education for all is not possible.

One student says issue of fees can't be discussed in isolation without reflecting on other issues. Picture: Xolani Koyana/EWN.

CAPE TOWN - The University of Cape Town (UCT) proposes that students from wealthier families pay higher fees for tertiary education, and those from poor families pay no fees.

UCT vice-chancellor Max Price made this proposal to the Commission of Inquiry into Higher Education and Training which held hearings in Cape Town this week.

Cape universities who made submissions to the inquiry have indicated blanket free education for all is not possible, partly because government has said it cannot allocate more public funds to universities.

UCT management is suggesting students who come from households with an income less than R120,000 should not be required to pay fees at all.

Another proposal was that "lower income" students could be supported with bursaries or financial aid loans.

Price says students from poor families already have to secure loans to access university.

"The argument is sometimes made that this is a double penalty, not only are you poor to start with but you also have this debt. I think that's a valid point so we'd argue that we haven't done a detailed maths of this and that there should be grants for the poorest."

Price adds this could be achieved through co-funding and that government should spend one percent of the country's GDP on higher education.